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Why Do SUVs Look Like Minivans?

Why Do SUVs Look Like Minivans?

For people who have been looking for a vehicle that has space for storage but doesn’t look like a complete box, an SUV has been one of the most popular options since they were first created. With their sleeker style that looks more like a truck than a minivan, customers flocked to these vehicles as the go-to family cars.

However, have you noticed that SUVs now look more like minivans than anything else? You are not alone if you have been wondering why this is. We wanted to find out. 

Modern SUVs look more like minivans because the shape and style of the vehicle turned more into a family-friendly option that was more fuel-efficient and wasn’t quite as bulky but still kept the room for passengers and storage.

Today, SUVs serve many of the same purposes as a minivan. From taking kids to school to shuffling them and their friends to sports events and birthday parties, family vehicles all need to check the same boxes. An SUV is a family car, and it looks like a minivan because it must handle many of the same uses as one!

So, what makes an SUV different if it looks like and functions like a minivan? Well, keep reading to find out what makes these two vehicles different, and what makes them similar. 

What is an SUV? 

The term SUV stands for a sports utility vehicle, which was determined to be a mix of a truck and a passenger car as it had specific elements from both styles.

The SUV had more cargo space for storage than any passenger car, but it also had seating for a larger number of people than a pick-up. 

So, the term SUV was created to separate this vehicle from others on the market. SUVs go as far back as the 1930s when the Chevy Suburban was created in its original form.

The term SUV was not used until the 1980s, and the first model of SUV that is similar to the style we have today was the Jeep Wagoneer. 

The shape of an SUV was made to be different from a minivan but still comes with the most amount of space for storage as possible. This is why the shape tends to be boxier than cars with a rear that is not sloped like a sedan.

What is a Minivan?

A minivan is a passenger vehicle that often comes with two or three rows of seating and is made for the specific purpose of transporting multiple people at one time.

Unlike full-size vans, which are made to carry items for transport, typically for businesses, a minivan is designed for passengers only.

The term minivan was taken from the term “van,” but given the “mini” because they are a bit smaller and do not usually haul as much weight as a regular van would.

Because full-sized vans usually carry goods or equipment, they often have a larger weight capacity.

The shape of a minivan is meant to be comfortable for all passengers and gives more leg and head space than other vehicles. This is why the car tends to have a long body with a curved rear and a slightly taller ceiling. 

The Differences Between an SUV and a Minivan 

Although there are some things that are similar about these two vehicle types, let’s first discuss what the differences are between the two.

There are a few main reasons why these vehicles are not considered the same thing. 

Cargo Space 

A minivan is meant to haul a good amount of weight, but much of this is meant to be attributed to the passengers. There is more space in the interior of the vehicle itself, but there is not always a large volume of space in the trunk as is found in SUVs.

It is more often assumed that each passenger will carry a few items with them, but the car is not designed to haul lots of items or goods. 

An SUV often comes with a bit more cargo space, as it is meant to be similar to a truck that hauls lots of goods. Extra space is often placed in the trunk and does not provide as much passenger interior space as a minivan would.

Although the space of both vehicles is somewhat similar, the way that it is used and where it is situated makes both of them different. 

Sliding Doors Vs. Push-Out Doors 

Now, this difference doesn’t necessarily apply to all minivans, since not all of them have this feature, but we are including this because many do. The minivan is made for passengers, so the idea of opening a wide vehicle door in a small parking space is not ideal.

Instead, the sliding door was created to allow for all passengers in the back seat to get out without worrying about having enough space. This is something that is still not seen on many other vehicles other than a minivan. 

SUVs tend to have a typical push-out door like sedans and compact vehicles do.

This was probably not a major decision when it came to designing the vehicle, so it was likely added because it was more common with other vehicles and didn’t make the SUV seem like a minivan. 


Though there are a few differences, you will find that there are so many similarities in the modern version of SUV and minivans, that they look and feel like the same vehicle.

Between the main use and the driving abilities, these vehicles seem to have more in common than not.

Ride Height 

When you think about an SUV, you might picture a huge truck-like structure that holds lots of people and cargo. Well, that might have been the case in the past, but this isn’t so anymore. 

Many SUVs look more like a minivan than they ever have before. Older versions were made to be much larger but weren’t very fuel-efficient.

So, to fix this issue, SUVs paired down on what was needed in the vehicle and began being made to be the size of a minivan instead of the huge SUVs of the past. 

This also goes for the height of the vehicle, which may have been a bit higher to start with, but was found to be difficult for younger children to deal with. Parents who want their kids to be able to get in by themselves would opt for a lower vehicle. 

Now, SUVs have the same ride height as a minivan so families can get everything they want in one vehicle. 

Similar Shape 

When SUV first came out, they were advertised as the alternative family vehicle to the minivan. It was like the cool cousin that everyone wanted to hang out with!

However, with the issues that came along with having a large vehicle that was not great on gas or easy to drive around town in with multiple children, they became a little less popular over time. 

The large boxy shape made the fuel-efficiency pretty bad, and the large size was making matters worse. So, newer SUVs actually come in a shape that is more similar to a minivan. 

The sloped front, curved trunk, and rear spoilers allow for efficiency improvements, but also make modern SUVs look more like minivans today.

This change in style has turned the look of the SUV into a minivan equivalent, without actually calling it a minivan. 

Three-Row Seating 

Many cars on the road hold up to five or six people, but a minivan has been made to hold more than other cars. With the three-row seating that is typical in a minivan, you can normally seat anywhere from seven to ten people. 

The SUVs were one of the only other vehicles that offered this type of three-row seating that wasn’t meant for commercial use. So, this makes it look and feel more like a minivan. 

Also, with the new shape and size of current SUVs, this adds even more to the picture. With the same shape, ride height, and three-row seating, you could easily mistake an SUV for a minivan.

Why Do SUVs Look Like Minivans? 

Well, as mentioned before, the original design of an SUV was not practical for many families. Because families were the target market, this made selling SUVs difficult. 

So, with changes needed to be made, the shape and style of the vehicle turned more into a family-friendly option that was more fuel-efficient and wasn’t quite as bulky but still kept the room for passengers and storage.

Because of this, the style of SUVs slowly turned into a minivan more and more. But, if an SUV is essentially a minivan, why isn’t it just called one? 

Well, the issue with the minivan is that it has an image problem. Most people don’t think of a minivan as a cool vehicle, and because of this, they don’t want to drive one. 

Overall, saying that you drive an SUV just sounds better. 


With the many changes to the original model of SUV, these vehicles look more and more like minivans every day.

However, because of the fact that minivans are looked down on as a sensible and non-stylish option, many people don’t want to say that they drive one. 

These changes have made a difference in the sale of SUVs, but is it just because people want the usefulness of a minivan without having to say that they drive one? Maybe.

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Zach Reed

Hi, I'm the founder of! Having owned a wide variety of vehicles in my life, I was astounded at how hard it can be to find answers to common automotive questions. Rather than sit idly, I decided to create this website to help others!